Laura Secorun Palet
You're probably well-acquainted with the idea of the food van. The more sartorially minded may have even visited a fashion truck. Now, it's translated into literature aimed at tourists.
In June 2013, three entrepreneurial literature lovers from Portugal's capital created a nomadic bookstore that moves around the city all year long, bringing Portuguese literature to international visitors.
Tell a Story — that's the van's name — offers a collection of more than a dozen Portuguese classics that have been translated into English, French, Italian, German and Spanish. There's something for everyone, from the evasive and sad verses of Fernando Pessoa — "To be understood is to prostitute oneself" — to Antonio Lobo Antunes' dense and moving accounts of the country's post-colonial legacy.
The vehicle, a gorgeous 1975 Renault Estafette, has character, but the soul of this literary omnibus is its driver, Francisco Antolin. He's a 36-year-old Lisboner who loves books and talking about them with whomever stops by.
"We wanted to help people discover Portugal through our literature, because stories are a great way to understand a culture," he says.
The idea came to him and two friends, Domingos Cruz and Joao Correia Pereira, when they realized how difficult it was to find translated editions of Portuguese literature to give to their non-Portuguese friends.
At first they thought about opening a conventional bookstore, but they ditched the idea after Cruz visited China and saw vans selling stationery and school supplies to children. They chose to put the whole thing on wheels. Twelve months and countless emails seeking permission from Lisbon's City Council later, Tell a Story was born.
It was a bold move in a time of economic crisis. Would foreigners be interested? Would locals embrace a store that sold only foreign-language books? Would the vendor permits hold? The answers have been yes.
All year long — rainy days aside — the van is surrounded by curious passers-by, from tourist groups and Portuguese couples to the occasional literature teacher.
"I learn so much from them," says Antolin. "Sometimes they come back and share books with me or even teach me something I didn't know about an author."
Already, Tell a Story has been swamped by partnership offers, but the trio has remained true to the original aim. "Once you start selling t-shirts and mugs, you can end up being just another touristy junk shop. We don't want that," says Antolin.
Instead, they've launched an editorial company with the same name. So far, the company has published an edition of Pessoa's No Matter What We Dream, a Pessoa compilation titled Disquiet Lisbon, and Jesus Christ Drank Beer by a young contemporary Portuguese author, Afonso Cruz.
The plan now is to get their hands on a second van — perhaps a more reliable model than the dear Estafette, which often breaks down — and start traveling beyond Portugal and throughout Europe. They also plan to continue publishing up-and-coming Portuguese authors and selling the books abroad.
In need of a quick literary fix? To find these transient booksellers, the safest bet is to wander around Lisbon's São Jorge Castle neighborhood in the mornings or the Jardim do Principe Real in the afternoons. There's no strict schedule, so it's best to check the Facebook page, where they update their location.
And who knows, the Tell a Story van, or others like it, could be coming to a city near you. As Antolin says, "Culture has no borders."
You can follow Laura @LauraSecorun.
Michael Sam, the first openly gay player drafted to an NFL team, has been released by the St. Louis Rams, the team has announced.
"Sam's efforts to become the first openly gay player in NFL history came up just short in a competition against undrafted rookie Ethan Westbrooks.
"Westbrooks is one of nine defensive linemen to land a roster spot.
"Sam officially hit waivers Saturday at 4 p.m. ET when all NFL teams had to trim their rosters down to the league-mandated 53 players. From there, the other 31 teams will have 24 hours to put in a claim for Sam.
"According to one league source, the Rams would like to bring Sam back to their 10-man practice squad."
Sam, who played defensive end for Missouri in college, was picked 249th out of 256 in the May draft after coming out earlier in the year about his homosexuality.
When the player learned the news, ESPN cameras were rolling as Sam and his boyfriend embraced and kissed, sparking a social media firestorm from some who felt the display was inappropriate.
Cyd Zeigler, co-founder of OutSports, a sports news site that's dedicated to LBGT athletes, said in an interview with NPR's All Things Considered in May, that he didn't think that Sam's homosexuality would be a deciding factor, but he also suggested that the groundbreaking nature of the move would make it difficult for the Rams to drop him.
"[Everything's] going to be decided on his ability to help the team win, but I don't think the Rams became the first team ever to draft an openly gay player just to be the first team to cut an openly player," Zeigler told ATC host Melissa Block. "I think that probably somewhere in the back of somebody's head in the Rams organization is the idea that maybe we should find some way to keep him."
South Africa has condemned an apparent coup in Lesotho, an independent kingdom within its borders where the army appears to have seized power, driving out the prime minister. Lesotho's defense forces, however, have denied a takeover.
Lesotho's military seized two police stations Saturday as gunfire rang out in the capital of the mountainous kingdom. The military justified the move by saying that police planned to arm factions at an upcoming demonstration in the capital, Maseru. An army spokesman denied a coup and said the army had returned to the barracks.
The Associated Press reports:
"Political tensions have been high in the tiny kingdom ... since June when there was a power struggle after Prime Minister Thomas Thabane suspended parliament to dodge a vote of no confidence."
"Early Saturday, Prime Minister Thomas Thabane was forced to flee across the South African border to escape the violence."
"By all accounts the actions of the Lesotho defense force bear the hallmarks of a coup d'etat," South African Foreign Ministry spokesman Clayson Monyela told reporters.
"We are calling on the commander of the armed forces to return to the barracks and allow the democratically elected government to return to its business," Monyela said.
"The situation in Lesotho is still unfolding. No one has claimed to take over government ... so we are monitoring that ... our interest is to see it resolved through peaceful means," Monyela was quoted by the AP as saying.
The news agency reports: "Thabane told South Africa's eNCA television that the military actions amounted to a coup. He said he did not give permission for the action and that something like this should not be happening in a democratic state. He is going to meet with South African officials, and expects South Africa to help his government restore law and order, he said."
Dozens of besieged United Nations peacekeepers were safely extracted after being surrounded for days on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights.
After rebels of the al-Qaida-affiliated Nusra Front seized 44 Fijian peacekeepers on Thursday, they laid siege to two encampments of Filipino peacekeepers totaling more than 70 soldiers.
The rebels demanded the Filipino soldiers, part of the U.N. mission known as UNDOF, surrender their weapons, but the peacekeepers refused.
"There was a firefight but I would like to assure everyone that our troops are safe at the moment," said Ramon Zagala, chief of the Philippines Armed Forces public affairs office. He did not give any more details.
"The U.N. peacekeepers returned fire and prevented the attackers from entering the position," a U.N. statement said. It said there were no reported casualties among the U.N. personnel.
It wasn't immediately clear which U.N. peacekeepers were involved in the firefight with Nusra Front fighters.
The Associated Press reports: "The gunbattle began early Saturday at the Rwihana base some 1.5 miles (2.3 kilometers) from Quneitra, where 40 Filipino peacekeepers were surrounded by Nusra fighters who were ordering them to surrender, said Rami Abdurrahman of the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. The Philippines' Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin gave a similar account but did not name the armed group."
The Irish Times quotes an unnamed military official as saying an Irish U.N. peacekeeping battalion, which is tasked with emergency responses, evacuated all the Filipino peacekeepers on Saturday morning.
The U.N. said in a statement that that the Fijian peacekeepers are, according to reliable sources, "safe and in good health."
UNDOF, with peacekeepers from Fiji, India, Ireland, Nepal, Netherlands and the Philippines, has monitored the disengagement zone between Israel and Syria since 1974 in the wake of the 1973 Arab-Israeli war, Reuters says.
Rescue workers in Nicaragua were trying to reach four trapped miners in the gold and silver mine in the country's south-central city of Bonanza, after 22 others were freed.
The Associated Press quotes the country's first lady Rosario Murillo as saying 20 of the miners were rescued on Friday, in addition to two others who escaped a collapse on Thursday.
The AP says:
"Hundreds of relatives and fellow miners had gathered to pray outside the mine as rescuers lined up several ladders along a 200-foot long tunnel leading toward where the men were trapped. The mine cuts into the side of a mountain and then goes upward.
"Commander Javier Amaya of the rescue team said the rescue plan involved groups 'of five or 10 miners entering the mine on wooden ladders, tying themselves off and going in until they reach them.'"